Tag Archives: redemption

Two Illustrations from Nature…

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It is the weekend my Dad died nine years ago. It is the week a dear friend died one year ago. A coworker just had a miscarriage. A close friend is going through a divorce.

Illustration number one: This week I was at a work retreat up the coast. There was pine, dry grass, and dirt that acts like chalk on your shoes. The sunrise was obscured by a heavy fog being blown over the hill. As I climbed the hill I stepped into a copse of pine. I turned my head into the breeze to catch the wind in my ears and I caught another sound. It was so loud I looked around for what could cause this “pat pat pat”. Droplets had formed on the tip of every needle of every pine. I thought of the fog, how like grief, heavy, pervasive, and obscuring the view at three feet. And I thought of the trees, every day reaching out and into; by will and persistence making tangible something good and life-giving, watering themselves.

Illustration number two: Today we drove down the coast. We stopped just south of Linda Mar at a battery held aloft still by a truculent chunk of granite. High above the water and rocks, the walkway around seemed to drop out of sight with a certainty that made me hold my three-year-old’s hand tighter. Surely it would mean death to ever step past that edge. And yet, as we walked closer, we were surprised to find slopes, not gentle, but like many things in life, surprisingly survivable.

 

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Broad Places…

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Today this verse is resonating with me. Psalm 18:19 “He brought me out into a broad place…” The psalm talks about rescue. I have never been pursued by a hoard bent on my blood, as David was rescued from. But I do know the sensation of drowning in the details of my circumstances. I know the feeling of suffocating in the overwhelming hum of demands, fears, and anxieties. It’s amazing how each one, small enough on its own, works together to create my own hoard of personal daily demons. Even a house-mom needs rescue. Even a part-time working mom with three healthy babies enjoys the promise of broad places. I want to have these broad places inside me where my situation can’t touch them. I want to walk around with this expansiveness inside my chest.

From Ashes to Ashes…

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With one thumb they draw the dark line of ash down and say, “Remember from ashes you have come.”

And with the same thumb they draw a dark line of ash across and say, “And to ashes you shall return.”

Because really, any way you look at it, up, down, left, right, horizontal or vertical, I was nothing and will be nothing.

But then all that ash that’s condemning me to miserable remembrance ends up being a cross on my forehead. Because there is one place where I am something, at the cross.

I came from nothing, receive eternal life, and return to nothing.

Jesus came from heaven and the beginning of creation, found condemnation and death, and returned to heaven at God’s right hand.

What a beautiful mystery is the interchanged middles of those two stories.

And what could be simpler than one line across another, touching each other at one point?

But some of the most beautiful things are simple.

Book Release (!!!) for Natalie Pagel’s RUINS…

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I met Natalie Pagel a few years ago. I heard she was a writer and so the invisible spark of camaraderie bound us together almost instantly.

I soon learned from our circle that Natalie had written a book. She had finished it, bound it at Kinko’s and passed it around to her friends and family. I got her phone number from a mutual friend and she soon received a phone call from someone she barely knew (me) encouraging her to not spend any more money at Kinko’s when she could go to Create Space and publish her little book for free, and maybe have all those friends and family actually buy it off of Amazon.

(Please, authors! You are better than Kinko’s!)

Her story has lived through several transformations since then and is now (hooray!) available on Amazon.

I would like to introduce Ruins: The Perfect Place to Build Indestructible Life by Natalie Pagel!

I have read it through twice now, and have begun a third time. It by turns makes me cry and laugh out loud. I just made my husband listen to a particularly funny page. I won’t tell you what part (parts) makes me cry, because that would be a spoiler. But I will tell you the funniest part for me is right around rock bottom when she also gets ants. You know the kind of day she’s talking about, people.

It is Natalie’s story, and her family story. It begins with Natalie in a place of righteous self-assuredness, financial success, and a very sure view of God and the world. And, then life happens, as it does to most of us. But it seems to avalanche over Natalie and her husband all at once, tragically and, at times, comically.

To give you a sense of her journey I give you a piece of hers that I love called “The Grand Canyon”. She tucked it away at the end of her book:

 

The Grand Canyon

Everything was working against it, and yet for it. Violence and isolation, woven into endless stretches of time, were a part of the very intentional and very intricate process of its coming-of-age.

Shifting and reforming from below as foundations moved, and from above as suffocating deluges added insult to injury, its absolute rock-bottom gave way to new depths.

Relentlessly the elements persisted. Even its own crumbly-clay fabric was used to carve out its deep, deep chasms.

Yet despite its cursed existence, it is anything but a futile wasteland. No, it is a wonder of creation-inspiring and majestic. A banner of beauty. A fingerprint of salvation. Breathtaking from every vantage point.

Bidding still, that nature run its course.

Engraved by the hand of destruction at the hand of the Creator, it is not empty. Patiently and skillfully sculpted, it is not forsaken.

Its gashed and gorged landscape is full-teeming with color and light and life.

I absolutely love this. Because people come from around the world to see the beauty of a place so harshly brought about. Are we prettier for that which has been carved from us? Is the rebuilding of Jerusalem sweeter for having been in exile in Babylon?

And I like this version of testimony best, that tells the whole story, not just the pretty parts, which my honest and beautiful friend Natalie certainly does.

I’ll be popping on here this month to give you excerpts as I read through her book again.

In the meantime, head over to Amazon and buy it for yourself! And then, please, leave a glowing review! Also, head over to her blog at http://www.illuminatethetruth.com and follow her story as it continues to get written.

Bound…

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Last week I got into a fight with my husband. I said something. He said something. I said something else when I probably shouldn’t have. Then he REALLY said something.

The next day there was a bit of resolution … an unsatisfactory bit.

And then a few days later I said something again.

Now, here I am on Sunday morning sitting in church and I realize I have a fistful of strings clenched tight in my hands. This string is tied back to the moment he said this. This string leads back to the moment I said that. This string is from the moment that he didn’t understand. This string is from the moment where I was uncompromising.

And I’m picking at the bundle, trying to keep them straight. Counting the tally, who owes who what? Who has been vindicated? Did I come out ahead?

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past six weeks since my son started school it’s that I’m not good at multitasking. I’m late for pickup. I’m late for soccer practice. I forget the library books. I forget the teacher’s birthday.

And it works to my benefit now as I get confused by this tangle in my lap, trying to keep track of my debt, my desserts.

I have to drop it. This could go on for weeks or months or more. I could hold tight to this little string or that one and save it for the moment when I could say, “See here. Remember when you said this?”

But they drop from my hands in my sudden inability to keep it all straight. And I gasp a little and grasp a little. Because I’m pretty sure I was coming out on top. But in that moment I feel free. And I can breathe. So, then I decide.

I toss them away, throwing the jumbled ball to the ground and wiping my hands down my arms as if to brush off the clinging spider webs of sour memory.

And I drink my communion cup slowly, letting it flow down my throat to coat, like the pink Pepto Bismol in the old commercial, redeeming every bitter thing as it goes down slowly into my gut.

How ‘bout that? There was resurrection in the morning! What a glorious surprise is a new beginning!

And the last song we sing is, “We are bound, we are bound, we are bound for Promised Land.”

So, I leave church without strings binding me backwards, but bound by one leading me ever forward into promised places.